The navicular bone is located in the lower heel of a horse just behind then coffin bone and the short pastern. (see figure 1) The navicular bone is prone to cause issues such as lameness in horses, navicular disease being one of these.
Navicular disease is a progressive and degenerative condition involving the navicular bone. (Navicular disease in horses: signs and treatment, 2001) Navicular is not classified as a disease in horses as it is just a series of abnormalities. Terms once used were “navicular syndrome” or “palmar foot pain” however due to advances in technology such as MRI scanning we now use the term to it as “navicular disease” to refer to changes in the navicular bone structure. The so called disease is stated to be one of the most common causes for severe can chronic lameness in horses. (Navicular Disease in Horses – Musculoskeletal System)
Diagnosing navicular disease can be quite tricky, but modern advances in technology have allowed it to be a little easier. MRI scanning allows us to look at soft tissue damage and fluid in addition to just the bone. Whereas in past times vets have had to take radiographs or which do not offer the insight of the soft tissues and supporting ligaments around the navicular bone itself. (The New Navicular Paradigm, 2016)
Since MRI scans have stared to be used they have shed a light on equine foot pathology and navicular dieses itself. If used correctly by an experienced MRI user then it can produce complex images and be used for a clear diagnostic; being able to tell specifically what is wrong with the horses foot/heel.(The New Navicular Paradigm, 2016)
We can see how technology advances had allowed us to be able to diagnose navicular disease in horses but now how have the industry advanced in ways of treating and preventing it?
In the past a horse owner’s wort nightmare would be to find out their horse had navicular disease; this is because there was no apparent cure and inevitably the horse would have an early retirement. However, since MRI scans have been used vets and scientist could focus on specific areas and the root causes. In the summer of 2014 two new drugs were approved which would from then on help to combat and overcome navicular syndrome. (New options for navicular treatment, 2015) These two drugs are called Tildren and Osphos, they are both bisphosphonates and essentially work the same way and help with bone remodelling. (DVM, 2015)
Other advances in treating horses with navicular syndrome today can be rest, corrective shoeing, nerve blocks, and surgery. Shoeing Is a great way to treat it but must be done by an experienced farrier working closely with your vet. Advances in remedial shoeing means farriers can fit “ egg bar” shoes and/or pads which help to take weight of the heel and relieve tensions on the tendons. (Navicular Disease: Treatment and Prevention)
Prevention is always better than the cure. Preventing navicular disease isn’t too hard and could save a lot in the long run. All of these new treatments and diagnostics are effective and greatly appreciated in the industry however they come at a cost. Preventing navicular syndrome can be done by your horse receiving prober hoof care and shoeing and keeping an eye out for heat or swelling in the feet after strenuous work. Also keeping an eye of the hoofs for long toes, short heels or even uneven hoofs and getting this sorted and checked of if it occurs is good preventatives and shows good ownership too. (Navicular Disease: Treatment and Prevention)
DVM, K. M. (2015) Bisphosphonates and navicular syndrome in horses. dvm360.com. [Online] [Accessed on 21st November 2017] http://veterinarynews.dvm360.com/bisphosphonates-and-navicular-syndrome-horses.
Navicular Disease in Horses – Musculoskeletal System (n.d.) Veterinary Manual. [Online] [Accessed on 21st November 2017] https://www.msdvetmanual.com/musculoskeletal-system/lameness-in-horses/navicular-disease-in-horses.
Navicular disease in horses: signs and treatment (2001) Horse & Hound. [Online] [Accessed on 21st November 2017] http://www.horseandhound.co.uk/tag/navicular-disease.
Navicular Disease: Treatment and Prevention (n.d.) EquineSpot.com. [Online] [Accessed on 21st November 2017] http://www.equinespot.com/navicular-disease.html.
New options for navicular treatment (2015) The Horse Owner’s Resource. [Online] [Accessed on 21st November 2017] https://equusmagazine.com/diseases/options-navicular-treatment-28471.
The New Navicular Paradigm (2016) TheHorse.com. [Online] [Accessed on 21st November 2017] http://www.thehorse.com/articles/37431/the-new-navicular-paradigm.